In a challenging economy, one coachbuilder stands by a simple belief: Stay true to principles, and steer clear of radical changes. Since 1979, DaBryan Coach Builders, Inc., based in Springfield, Mo., has been manufacturing a complete line of limousines on Lincoln and Cadillac chassis. In 1996, DaBryan implemented an employee ownership program. By 1997, DaBryan was 100 percent employee-owned.
DaBryan does not wait until something happens in the marketplace to implement a change. “We’re always evolving product,” says George Lee, vice president of sales. “Even though we hold our steadfast values near and dear, that doesn’t mean that we don’t change.” The company has evolved and improved over the years without compromising its original values. “We’ve added some great new changes — we’ve put in some new options that have added to the end user’s ability to make more money with the vehicle. But I don’t think we have lost who we are in our identity or our culture. We try to be identifiable and consistent.”
This year, DaBryan received the 2001 Missouri Impact Award for Continuous Improvement in Manufacturing Excellence. This award is given out by the Missouri Enterprise, a non-profit corporation sponsored in part by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. To date, only five companies have received the prestigious award. “This was based upon our commitment to continuing improvement in product and processes,” says Dan Mitchell, president of DaBryan.
Lee attributes DaBryan’s steady success to many factors. One is to offer an immediate response to customers’ concerns or comments.
“We don’t employ voice mail at our company,” Lee says. “When you call us, you get a live operator on the phone, a real person that can talk to you and help you. Even if the person you are calling isn’t available, at least you are speaking to a person.”
Lee adds that these days, the term “service” is vague and sometimes hard to identify. “Everybody says, ‘well, we’re great at service,’” he explains. “One key to our service is the fact that we’re always available, for compliments or complaints. When customers call, they are not avoided only to get a return phone call later. They get an immediate response. I think people still need that.”
DaBryan does business in various countries, including Canada. “We work primarily through OEM dealers,” Mitchell says. “Obviously we have had to go through the qualifications by Transport Canada.”
Transport Canada is the country’s governing organization that develops and administers transportation policies and legislation. Vehicles must have pre-clearance by Transport Canada and adhere to Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). CMVSS require extensive documentation and continuous testing each model year.
“My hat’s off to Transport Canada,” Mitchell says. “They have rules and regulations, and they make you stick to them. I think it’s great — it protects the Canadian consumer. It’s good that they are so proactive.”